When head coach Michael Schanhals took nominations for leadership roles for the Hope College men's lacrosse team, he received an usually large number of candidates.
Four Flying Dutchmen emerged as captains for the 2018 season, and Schanhals said seniors Grant Brogan of East Lansing, Michigan (East Lansing HS) and John Hunger of Bay Village, Ohio (Bay), junior Liam Turley of Middleton, Wisconsin (Middleton), and sophomore Nick Bazany of Howell, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central) will excel in that role.
The high regard all of the Flying Dutchmen hold for each other is also a positive, Schanhals said.
"We have a very deep leadership capacity with this current group of men," said Schanhals, pictured. "When we took nominations for captaincy, we had 21 different players nominated. This speaks to the depth of respect our players have for one another."
Hope begins its season on Saturday, February 24 with a 1 p.m. Central nonleague match at Carthage, Wisconsin.
The Flying Dutchmen are looking to build on last season's 10-6 overall record that marked a program-high for wins since Hope became a varsity program in 2013. The Flying Dutchmen tied for second in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular-season standings with a 5-2 league record.
This season's Hope roster of 35 players with four seniors, five juniors, 15 sophomores, and 11 freshmen.
The Flying Dutchmen are fueled by memories of a season-ending, one-goal loss to Alma in the MIAA Tournament semifinals, Schanhals said.
"While we were pleased with our growth as a competitive program last year, there is not a single returning player on our team who was satisfied with the way our season ended," Schanhals said. " Losing a one-goal game in our first time hosting a home MIAA playoff game was very motivating for us. Our efforts to be together, and better ourselves together as a team, have been fueled by our experiences last year, and our young team is hungry."
Four returning All-MIAA second-team players are among the key returners for Hope.
Sophomore attacker Rocco Mularoni of Hartland, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central), finished third in the MIAA with 44 goals last season. He was one goal off the league lead.
Junior goalie Nick Schanhals of North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon) placed fifth in the MIAA with a 10.63 goals against average. He was third in the league with 147 saves.
Sophomore Andrew Caris of Hartland, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central) was one of six MIAA defenders to earn All-MIAA recognition.
Sophomore Kyle Gaines of South Lyon, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central) was among two faceoff specialists to be honored by the league's coaches.
The Flying Dutchmen must overcome the graduation of two seniors: all-time leading varsity scorer Gunnar Elder and Zach Weber. Elder was a three-time, All-MIAA first-team selection.
"We return the dynamic tandem of Max Kuiper and Rocco Mularoni at attack. Rocco and Max contributed 65 percent of our attack scoring last year. Max was top ten in the MIAA with 32 goals," Schanhals said. "Max and Rocco made an impact on the league last year as freshmen, and we expect them to be a very potent threat this spring during their sophomore season.
"At the faceoff dot, we return sophomores Kyle Gaines and Marshall VanBelkum. Kyle and Marshall teamed up as freshmen last year to win 155 ground balls."
Increased offensive contributions from the midfield also will be key for Hope, Michael Schanhals said.
"Nathaniel Hentschel, Gino Battaglia, Andrew Pavey, Scott Brooks, Matthew Harkema, along with a host of freshmen, are all scoring threats on offense," Michael Schanhals said. "We also return senior captain Grant Brogan after sitting out last season with an ACL injury. Grant was our leading scorer from the midfield the year before.
"Two-way middies are very integral to our full field success, and we have John Hunger, Grant Brogan, Liam Turley, Micah Bieri, Nathaniel Hentschel, Gino Battaglia, Andrew Pavey, and newcomer Stephen Holpuch who will contribute to our fast-break scoring, ground ball play, team execution, tempo control, and riding/clearing efforts."
Defensively, Michael Schanhals said the Flying Dutchmen have several returners from last season.
"Nick Bazany, Andrew Caris, Josh Blackburn, Scott Thomas, and Nick Schanhals are all back," Michael Schanhals said. "We are also encouraged by sophomore Gareth Ulmer coming back from surgery and his contributions so far this season. We are looking forward to having Brenden Micho join us once hockey season ends. Newcomer Adam Bell has been a solid contributor as well."